November 28, 2014 President’s Message
ACBA Committee Raising Awareness About Representing Clients with Disabilities
by Jim Creenan
I was fortunate to have attended the
Committee on Law and Disability’s
recent program entitled “Better
Client Representation through
It is certainly an important subject that warrants letting more people know about the work of one of the
ACBA’s newest committees.
The one-hour panel discussion
provided thought-provoking insight
on how lawyers can recognize and
serve clients with disabilities. There
was even more discussion among
attendees during the social hour that
followed the program.
Committee Co-Chair Paul Sullivan Jr.
led a very intriguing panel exploration
of disability-related issues, such as how
to recognize a client who might have an
impairment and how certain disabled
people respond in stressful situations.
Co-Chair Jennifer Modell joined Paul,
along with the Honorable John A.
Zottola, Lu Randall (Autism Connection
of Pennsylvania), and John Grant.
Many people with disabilities face legal
issues in the fields of Social Security
disability, bankruptcy, foreclosure,
employment, hate crimes, and the
Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to the knowledge
shared and the tips provided, panelist
John Grant described his pursuit of
disability accommodations as a
doctoral candidate and instructor at
the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
His story focused on many legal issues
and obstacles. His perseverance and
principles drove his fight for the
removal of barriers in his daily life.
Many community members attended
and each had a particular interest in
serving the needs of the disabled. I
met several non-lawyer program
leaders from the Clelian Heights
School, the Autism Society and other
groups. Each explained the increased
need for qualified legal assistance in
the wake of growing populations.
The program touched on two
important areas worthy of future
consideration for Continuing Legal
Education sessions. First, the panel
and committee expressed the necessity
for better understanding of the need
for those with physical or mental
impairments to have family members,
friends or case workers present
during legal discussions. Of course,
this raises the prospect of waiving the
Second, most lawyers would be better
served with a working knowledge of
the broad and changing landscape of
the ADA’s accessibility guide.
The committee began its work last
year as a result of the vision of then
ACBA President Nancy L. Heilman.
The program covered the breadth
of the committee’s mission statement,
which reads: “The Committee on Law
and Disability is committed to
providing disability-related education,
advocacy, and professional services to members of the legal profession,
consumers of legal services, and the
general public; promoting and
supporting accessibility and fair and
equal treatment of persons with
disabilities; and furthering the inclusion
and professional development of
disabled attorneys and law students
by creating programs and resources
to support their professional needs.
The committee meets on the first
Monday of each month at noon at the
ACBA headquarters. I encourage you
to consider joining the committee.